Elks title run top story of 2016

Elk River High School’s varsity football team established itself as the most dominant football team in the school’s history this year.

Star News file photo Elk River football’s 125th team won the school’s first state football title on Nov. 26 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Team 125 beat Spring Lake Park 42-14 to win the Class 5A state championship.
Star News file photo
Elk River football’s 125th team won the school’s first state football title on Nov. 26 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Team 125 beat Spring Lake Park 42-14 to win the Class 5A state championship.

It won every challenge laid before it en route to a 13-0 record.
The team went 8-0 in the regular season, knocking off defending state champion St. Michael Albertville before dispatching them again even more convincingly as it marched through section playoffs and eventually the state tournament to win the school’s first state championship in the program’s 125-year history.
Team 125, as it became known across Elk River and the state, gathered followers like a snowball rolling down a steep hill covered by fresh blanket of wet snow.
Elk River Police and Fire escorted the team out of town to U.S. Bank Stadium for its first Prep Bowl appearance since 1990, and they were joined about 8,000 red and black clad fans who made their way to the new stadium to watch the Elks team win 42-14.
The team was escorted back into town by the Police and Fire departments and have since been recognized by the city of Elk River and had Dec. 20 proclaimed as Elk River High School Football Team 125 Day.
For all of its accomplishments and the way the team and program brought the community along for the thrill ride, Team 125’s state title has been named by the Star News editorial staff as the news story of the year.

Beginnings
Team 125 first came onto the Elk River High School football program’s radar in 2012. That’s when a group of eighth-grade Elk River football players won a state championship for that level of play.
The Elks varsity football coach, Steve Hamilton, attended the game and talked to the players afterward.
He told them the championship didn’t mean anything in comparison to winning the high school state championship.

Photo by Erik Jacobson Sam Gibas (15) and his fellow senior captains celebrate their section championship victory over St. Michael-Albertville.
Photo by Erik Jacobson
Sam Gibas (15) and his fellow senior captains celebrate their section championship victory over St. Michael-Albertville.

Fast forward four years to Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, and those same players were now seniors who loaded onto buses with their teammates and were escorted out of town by police cars and fire trucks, while fans lined the Jackson Avenue and part of School Street cheering them on. They also passed one of two billboards wishing them luck.
This team came into the Class 5A State Championship with an undefeated record and ranked as the No. 1 5A team in the state.
The only thing standing between them and a perfect season was the Spring Lake Park Panthers.
The Elks were able to jump out to a 27-0 lead in the first half and carried that dominance into the final two quarters, finishing the game with a score of 42-14 and the school’s first state title in football.
Team 125 was escorted back into town as state champions. They were able to pass Cornerstone Auto where another public display of support was assembled. And the billboard on Highway 169 that wished them luck now congratulated them as champs.
Meanwhile, there were hundreds of fans awaiting their arrival in the gym at Elk River High School.

Photo by Eric Oslund Warran Hudson (right) quarterbacked the last Elk River team to go 8-0. He met with Team 125 to teach them about the history of the program.
Photo by Eric Oslund
Warran Hudson (right) quarterbacked the last Elk River team to go 8-0. He met with Team 125 to teach them about the history of the program.

The exuberant group entered the freshly redone gym chanting “125, 125, 125.” As the mob of players ran across the floor with the trophy hoisted high for everyone to see, fans had erupted and gave the team a standing ovation.
Minutes later Elk River Head coach Steve Hamilton was handed a microphone.
“Thanks for being here,” he said to them as the crowd roared again.
The fans in attendance were a mix of family and friends who were among the 8,000-some Elks fans who had been at U.S. Bank Stadium for the 42-14 win over Spring Lake Park, and others who had watched the rout at home on television.
“I am absolutely blessed to coach this team,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable group of young men. Families, you have to be so proud of these guys. They are amazing.”
Hamilton also told the crowd he wanted everybody — students, families and fans — to know that this team was one team.
“We are all one team and you are as big a part of Team 125 as these guys, so I appreciate everything you guys have done.”
Team 125 was welcomed on Dec. 19 to the council chambers at Elk River City Hall.
Mayor John Dietz, who wore an Elk River T-shirt, and his colleagues on the council honored the team during a council meeting Dec. 19.
Dietz, a graduate of Elk River High School and former Star News sports editor, referred to the players as the “most dominant Elk River team in the history of the school.”
One example, is the team out-scored its opponents 584-158.
“What you’ve done is truly outstanding,” he said. “You have brought tremendous pride to your community.”